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How Much SPF do you Really Need?

August 2, 2018

There is a lot of talk about how much sunscreen you actually need to use, and what SPF level gives you the most protection. It can be really confusing since SPF levels range from as low as SPF 4, to as high as SPF 110. But do you really need that much? It would stand to reason that if SPF 30 is good, SPF 110 would be great, right?

Research studies say No. While theoretically (in the lab) the higher the number the better the protection, but in reality it doesn’t work that way. Sunscreen with SPF over 50 gives people a false sense of security, believing they can skip reapplications and stay out in the sun much longer without a break. Additionally, the FDA warns higher SPF levels are basically ineffective and can contain ingredients that cause skin irritation. Most recommend use of a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50 for any outdoor activity, and for it to be effective, must be reapplied every two hours (at least), and immediately after swimming or sweating. SPF 15 is typically used on the face for daily activities like driving.

The amount is important too. It typically takes two tablespoons (1 oz.) to cover an average size body, less for children. The main thing to remember is to use enough to generously cover all exposed parts of your body, and to reapply often, especially if you are swimming or on the water. For added protection, consider a hat and pair of sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.

So the bottom line is, you probably don’t need anything above SPF 50. The bigger the number isn’t as important as how often you reapply. So go out and enjoy the sun! After applying your sunscreen. And don’t forget to keep a bottle on hand for quick and easy reapplications throughout the day when needed.

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